The best domestic soccer league around starts up the new season tomorrow with Crystal Palace hosting Arsenal. The match will be shown in the US on the USA network starting at 3pm EDT. For serious fans they will have a preview show for the match and the start of the season an hour before that.

Before we get into a team by team preview lets look at some changes being made for the league this season.

  1. Substitutions – Clearly the biggest change in the EPL this year is their updated substitution rules…catching up with the rest of the world. For this season, teams will be allowed up to 5 subs per match and total roster size has increased from 18-20. Having 9 potential subs on the game day roster is going to open up some playing time for younger up and comers. Substitutions will be allowed 3 times during the match play plus at the start of the second half.
  2. Penalty Kicks – The FIFA wording for Law 14 has been amended which of course will apply to the EPL this season. This Law, in part, addresses where a goalkeeper must place their feet prior to the taking of a penalty kick. The previous wording required the keeper to have at least part of one foot on the goal line as the ball was struck. So a keeper that had one foot toward the spot but the other foot behind the line (inside the goal) was technically a violation even though no advantage was gained. The new wording states “when the ball is kicked the defending goalkeeper must have at least part of one foot touching, or inline with, or behind the goal line.”
  3. Multi -ball system – For this season the EPL will be using a multi-ball system for its matches. A total of 10 match balls will be used. One ball in play, one ball with the 4th official, and 8 balls placed around the field. The intent here is to speed up play.

So there’s some preseason background now lets dive into the 20 sides playing in the EPL and how they expect to do this campaign.

AFC Bournemouth

Last Season – 2nd English Championship

After a 2 year hiatus Bournemouth is back up in the EPL. The problem for fans of the Cherries is that the club has been trying to “balance the books” for a couple of years and isn’t spending any money, literally. The hope is that manager Scott Parker can mold a team of players that have some limited EPL experience into a more competitive side with their growth the last 2 years in the Championship.

Projection – 20th

Arsenal

Last Season –5th

A pretty good finish for the Gunners last year. Qualified for the Europa League and just 2 points shy of a top 4 (Champions League) berth. Arsenal has brought in a couple of new faces but none bigger for them that Gabriel Jesus (from Manchester City). This team plays a high intensity game and can score from anywhere by a lot of different players. But at times that intensity has gotten them into trouble with red cards. They will need to control that if they want to make a push up the table. Is this the year they get that coveted UCL berth? I think so!

Projection –4th

USMNT Player – Matt Turner (#2 keeper)

Aston Villa

Last Season – 14th

The good news for Villa fans had been that they had been moving up the ranks the last several seasons. Three seasons climbing the ladder in the Championship then 17th then 11th the last two seasons in the EPL. But as predicted, they took a huge hit losing midfielder Jack Grealish to Manchester City. But not is all negative. Manager, Steven Gerrard, has the full season now to implement the 4-2-3-1 system he likes. And adding Phillipe Coutinho to play in front of midfileder John McGinn should make their attack even more dangerous. The clubs stated goal for the season is to qualify for Europe. I think they move up the table this year but that might be a stretch goal.

Projection – 9th

Brentford

Last Season – 13th

Most experts expected Brentford to not adjust quickly enough to the increased pace of the EPL in their first ever season and to be in the relegation zone. I too expected them to fall back out predicting a 19th place finish. Well not only were they not relegated they were a mere 5 points from a top 10 finish. They have some talent but their big question will be depth and can they maintain the level of play from last season? They will go as far as striker Ivan Toney’s goal scoring takes them.

Projection – 18th

Brighton and Hove Albion

Last Season –9th

They brought in a box to box midfielder in Enoch Mwepu. Pairing him in the middle with Yves Bissouma made them very strong in the middle of the field. Unfortunately Bissouma has just transferred to Tottenham. Replacing him is a big question mark and I expect the team to regress a bit this year after their best ever finish last season.

Projection – 13th

Chelsea

Last Season – 3rd

Not sure what to make of this team. All the talent in the world. A ton of depth. A terrific manager. But somehow all the pieces don’t seem to mesh as well as they should. One of the problems with having so much talented depth is how to give everybody enough minutes to keep them happy. And there have been plenty of unhappy Blues players. Romalu Lukaku was unhappy with his role and has left. Timo Werner wants to play more and has said he’ll take a pay cut to leave. Then in last weeks preseason match against Arsenal they got their butts handed to them 4-0. Yeah its only preseason but after the match manager Thomas Tuchel questioned the players “physical and mental commitment.” Not what you want to hear a week before the season starts. But on the plus side they did bring in Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. He scored 13 goals and had 4 assists in only 23 starts for MC. If he repeats that level for Chelsea they will likely finish top 4 again.

Prediction – 3rd

USMNT Player – Christian Pulisic (Winger)

Crystal Palace

Last Season – 12th

Patrick Viera is starting his second campaign as their manager and hopes to avoid the dreaded second year slump. And to provide a place for their youth to showcase their stuff. The problem is that they are not quite ready to shine. Viera is going to rely on Wilfried Zaha to lead the attack. Losing Connor Gallagher (last seasons best player) is problematic and they haven’t really replaced him yet. The did bring in American Chris Richards to help bolster the middle of the back line. If Richards stays healthy and continues the growth he showed in the Bundesliga it could keep them headed in the right direction.

Prediction – 12th

USMNT Player – Chris Richards (CB)

Everton

Last Season – 16th

A very disappointing season for Everton dropping all the way down to 16th and a mere 4 points clear of the relegation zone. The key to Frank Lampard’s side is simple. It starts with Jordan Pickford in goal. With the World Cup just a bit over 3 months away the English keeper will be out to show he should be their #1 in Qatar. The issue for Everton is going to be where does their attack come from? They lost Richarlison to Tottenham and then just minutes ago they announced that Dominic Calvert’Lewin has suffered a knee injury and is out for 6 weeks. Lampard is going to have to work some magic for the first two months to keep his side above water.

Prediction – 14th

Fulham

Last Season – 1st English Championship

The Duncans as I like to call them (as in Duncan Yo-Yos) have flip flopped between the EPL and the Championship like clock work. Up a year then down a year has been a theme for the last 5 seasons. Is this the year the Cottagers (their real name) can actually stick? In a nutshell it boils down to two words. Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian striker smashed the single season scoring record for the Championship. The previous record had been 30 goals in a season. Mitrovic scored 43 goals in 44 matches. That’s insane but no way he continues that pace in the EPL. But if he can approach over half of that it could be enough to keep them up for a second year.

Prediction – 17th

USMNT Player – Antonee Robinson (LB)

Leeds United

Last Season – 17th

The White’s are quickly becoming favorite EPL side among American fans. A look at what’s new in Leeds and you see why. First they brought in a new manager in the later half of last season in American Jesse Marsch got them playing well enough to avoid relegation. Then they made two key transfer moves this summer in bringing in two American stars in Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg) and Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig). Aaronson will play an attacking midfield role while Adams will play behind him in a defensive midfield role. Just like they do for the USMNT. Couple with a superb keeper in Illan Meslier the trend is upward!

Prediction – 15th

USMNT Players – Aaronson and Adams

Leicester City

Last Season – 8th

Leicester only has one problem facing them going into the season. They did literally nothing to improve the side during the transfer window. As of yet they have not brought in a single new player. Now they have a solid core with the likes of Jamie Vardy (striker) and Harvey Barnes (winger) and a solid cast supporting them. But fans of the Foxes have to be wondering just what is going on in their front office? The Wolverhampton Wanderers have only brought in one new player. All 18 other EPL clubs have brought in at least 3 new players. But Leicester standing pat? Looks like they are playing poker and making a massive bluff except the cards are dealt face up/

Prediction – 10th

Liverpool

Last Season – 2nd

The Reds just keep trucking along having finished in the top 4 the last 6 years and expect that to continue. They finished but a single point behind Man City. One of these years they are going to get over the top. The biggest offseason news in Liverpool was the extension of Mo Salah. Another Golden Boot award after scoring 31 goals and showing no signs of slowing down. But he has lost a front line mate in Sadio Mane who transferred to Bayern Munich. Then just as quickly they brought in 23 year old wonderkid Darwin Nunez from Benfica. Is this kid any good? Well he scored 47 times for the Portuguese club over the last 2 seasons. But he is a different type of player than Mane so the question is how does manager Jurgen Klopp plan to use him and could a formation change be in the works in Liverpool? No matter what they do the Reds will be in the hunt for the title. Oddsmakers have them as a flip with Man City for the title. I think this is the year.

Projection – 1st

Manchester City

Last Season – 1st

Citizen fans are once again excited not as if that’s something new. They have finished atop the table in 4 of the last 6 seasons and have never finished below 3rd in that span. They will certainly be in the mix for a bunch of trophies this season once again. Their attack was hurt a bit losing both Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling to the transfer window. But they have signed Erling Haaland who is probably the best striker in the world right now. If he adjusts quickly to the EPL and stays healthy it could be a monumental season for him and the Citizens. I think they win some medal this year but I am going to go out on a limb and say the EPL isn’t one of them.

Prediction – 2nd

Manchester United

Last Season – 6th

Man U once again had just an ok season. Not bad but not good enough by their standards leading to the firing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the hiring of Erik ten Hag. Ten Hag is building a possession oriented team around a midfield of Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen. The outstanding question is just where does Cristiano Ronaldo fit into this? The club insists he is staying and a part of their plans. Ronaldo insists he wants out and transferred to a side that will be playing in the UCL this fall. This appears to be a train wreck in the making. Then to make matters worse in their friendly on Sunday Ronaldo started but was subbed out at the half. Ok no big deal. But he was subsequently seen leaving the park before the end of the match. Not acceptable. Too much drama for a team trying to improve itself. Ten Hag has a tough job ahead.

Projection – 6th

Newcastle

Last Season – 11th

Since promotion 5 seasons ago Newcastle has always finished mid table and last year was no exception. Their new ownership seems to be taking a measured and intelligent approach to building the club into a contender. Haven’t made any monster moves as Magpie fans were hoping but they have been active in the transfer window bringing in Sven Botman (CB) from Lille, Nick Pope (keeper) from Burnley, and Matt Targett (LB) from Aston Villa. Build a solid defense and you are on your way to better things!

Prediction – 8th

Nottingham Forest

Last Season – 4th in English Championship (qualified for promotion in playoffs)

After 23 seasons, the Reds of the Tricky Trees as they are know are back in the EPL. Its hard to imagine that a team that finished 4th in the Championship and moved into the EPL via the playoff path can stick around. But they are certainly trying. They have spent over $60M in transfer fees this summer. No big splash moves just a bunch of solid additions. But the key player for them will continue to be Brennan Johnson. The 21 year old striker found the back of the net 16 times last season along with 9 assists. Already being looked at by some top EPL clubs if he has a strong year he’s going to fetch Nottingham some serious transfer fee money next year.

Prediction – 19th

Southhampton

Last Season – 15th

The Saints spent a fair bit during the transfer window this far and most pundits think they have spent smartly. But their key player will still be James Ward-Prowse. The midfielder will once again be the engine that drives the ship. Especially when it comes to taking free kicks. Everyone knows that a dangerous free kick taker is worth their weight in gold in the modern game. But here’s an interesting factoid. Ward-Prowse has scored the second most free kicks in the history of the EPL. The only guy ahead of him? Some guy you’ve never heard of…..David Beckham. The problem for the Saints is still going to be that they give up too many goals and if they falter even a bit they could be flirting with relegation once again.

Prediction – 16th

Tottenham

Last Season – 4th

Well Spurs fans have once again breathed a sigh of relief as they managed to keep Harry Kane in the fold. And they added several quality players this summer including Richarlison (F) from Everton and Ivan Perisic (MF) from Inter Milan. The Spurs have a superb side and plenty of depth for the long season ahead. If they stay relatively healthy, manager Antonio Conte will have lots of weapons at his disposal and a top 4 finish and UCL berth is certainly within reach.

Projection – 5h

West Ham United

Last Season – 7th

Another wonderful season for the Hammers! Well at least until the last few weeks when they faltered badly finishing up 1-1-3. Still they finished with a solid +9 goal differential and were making noise for a potential top 4 finish until the last month. The Hammers went out this summer and spent over $80M. Bringing in some solid players in Gianluca Scammaca (F) from Sassuolo, Nayef Aguerd (CB) from Rennes, and Alphonse Areola (GK) from PSG. But the best news for Hammers fans is that their most important player will once again be donning the claret jersey. And that is Declan Rice. How no major club has yet been able to pry him away is quite surprising but central midfielder will still be roaming the pitch in West Ham.

Prediction – 7th

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Last Season – 10th

Once again the Wolves had a strong defensive side allowing the 5th fewest goals in the EPL. They have brought in a standout CB in Nathan Collins from Burnley which should improve on that. The issue facing them is that they don’t score much. In fact the only EPL clubs that scored fewer goals than them last season were the 3 relegated clubs. Yikes! And they didn’t bring in any new faces to bolster their anemic attack. It appears that they are switching from a 3 man back line to a 4 man. While they will shine defensively at some point they will need to address the other end of the field!

Prediction – 11th

So the fun starts up tomorrow and once again the USA network will carry games each week in the US. Serious EPL fans will want to get the Peacock streaming service where most all EPL games will be shown.

Steve Birrer
Steve Birrer

Soccer Analyst

Steve is an avid fan of all things soccer and the O’s. Originally from the west, he grew up in the Baltimore area. He returned to the west for college where he earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University and spent 36 years working at the Idaho National Laboratory prior to retiring in 2013. It was during his school years in Baltimore where he learned to play soccer and that developed into a life long passion. He played competitively for over 40 years and was a four year starting goalkeeper at MSU. He also coached and refereed in the Idaho premier soccer and High School programs for many years.

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